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Center and periphery


Round table participants:


Anna Zhurba — Curator, MMOMA (Moscow)

Antonina Trubitsyna — “Garage” museum Research Department (Moscow)

Dmitry Filippov — artist, curator, founder of “Elektrozavod” gallery (Moscow)

Polina Lukina — Ph.D. student, HSE; “Place of Art” project (Moscow)

Maria Korchagina — independent researcher (Moscow)

Natalia Smolianskaia — Ph.D., Associate Researcher Paris-8, head of the “Place of Art” workshop (Moscow)

Tatiana Mironova — Ph.D. student, HSE; “Place of Art” project (Moscow)

Kristina Pestova — independent researcher, “Place of Art” project (Moscow)

Anna Zhurba (А. Z.): In Russia the center-periphery question is political. But infrastructure is also a political issue. Now we only need access to the Internet to communicate with other artists, curators, watch lectures, read books. In this regard, universities provide basic knowledge about how to use information resources. But this is not done in the regional universities, that’s why young artists do not consider the Internet as a channel that connects you to the whole world. For example, I spent two years running a portfolio review for the Moscow Biennale of Young Art in Tobolsk. Every year we found one or two talented artists who do not need infrastructure and can already have a large exhibition in Moscow, but at the same time, they exist very isolated. Many of them, especially young ones, think that someone will come from Moscow or Yekaterinburg and help them, therefore self-organization does not occur. So, I had questions for the Garage Triennial, because the artists were represented through their connection with institutions, for example, with the NCCA. The Triennial didn’t go beyond the institutional grid.


Antonina Trubitsyna (А. Т.): Why does an artist need an exhibition in Moscow? Why not do it there, in their region?


А. Z.: This is a kind of internal “self-peripheralization”. When I talk about Moscow, I mean any cities that form the center: New York, London, Moscow, Paris, etc. Art is produced in other places and then transported and beautifully presented in these centers.


Dmitry Filippov (D. F.): In what I heard now, there is a feeling of colonization. Initially, the peripheral center, Moscow, believes that it can come and cure the artist. But the artist does not need to be cured, if they want, they will make an exhibition anywhere. From the fact that institutions go beyond Moscow, they “poison” the local community — people start to think that “Garage” will come and will notice us. And those people who go there think that they want to do their best. It creates a paradoxical situation.


Polina Lukina: Does it somehow affect the practice of local artists? Maybe it leads to self-exoticism, or, conversely, make you work in opposition to institutions?


D. F.: Until twenty-one years I lived in Altai, in a very provincial region, and everything that happened in Moscow delighted me. When I arrived here, I realized how this situation is not true. The illusion of the success of Moscow makes me worried about local artists because they begin to experience this illusion. Later they have to do a lot of internal psychological work to get rid of illusions.


А. Т.: I am very surprised that in 2019 I was invited to a round table called “Center and periphery”. I hope this is a provocation or irony. Why are you still raising the question like this? We again reproduce this dichotomy, which is inside us. Regarding the Garage projects: I was surprised that the “Open Systems” project, which preceded the Triennial, was not considered at all. It was originally built outside the scope of the center and periphery.


D. F.: We participated in “Open Systems”. From the inside, it seems like an open, living process that brings people together. This again becomes an attempt to unite something that should unite itself. And the exhibition itself looked like an entomological exhibition of butterflies.


А. Т.: I understand your criticism, but it lies in a different field: this is the relationship between institutional center and living communities. From a geographical point of view, this project was positioned as absolutely horizontal. 


Maria Korchagina: What is the research optics? Is it just to collect an archive and show self-organizations at the exhibition?


А. Т.: The living process of self-organization is not archived yet. The project started from the archive because we realized that since the 2000s we have practically nothing in the archive.


Natalia Smolianskaia: What struck me most was that you were surprised that the question of center and periphery still arises. This is a very common attitude in our system: “We have already made an exhibition, we have our own view, yes, we had problems, but let’s go further to talk about other issues”. But there is nothing further. We don’t have the optics of critical geography.


Tatiana Mironova: For me, the “center-periphery” question is related to power. Even archiving documents is power. These regional initiatives exist somewhere there, and the archive is concentrated here, in one place. And the second: at the seminars we came to the conclusion that the center and the periphery lie in different planes and ceased to be the opposition. We talked about the center as the center of production that spreads the ideas. On the other hand, the periphery turned out to be rather an inner sense.


А. Z.: It seems to me that the issue of power is very important. “Center-periphery” will then become an irrelevant concept when, for example, academies will consider photographs, video art as art. When the history of art will not end with Pollock. When there will be some kind of common standard for everyone, then we can say that an artist can make an exhibition where he wants to.